Over 100 members of the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC) and women's wing of the CPI(M) were detained on Wednesday by the Dharmapuri district police after they began protesting in front of the office of the Superintendent of Police.
The agitators were demonstrating against alleged inaction by the police in three cases of sexual crimes against women with disabilities in the district. The police, however, maintain that necessary action has been taken in all the cases and has termed allegations by the protesters as false.
The three cases that were brought to the attention of the public were all registered in the Pennagaram police station. In the first case, a 26-year-old woman with intellectual disabilities was found dead in a well in Parvandanhalli in May. The post-mortem revealed that she was gang raped but seven months later, no arrests have been made in the case.
In the second case, an 11-year-old girl with intellectual disabilities was allegedly raped by a 15-year-old boy who has been remanded by the police. Protesters, however, allege that evidence of rape was being destroyed by the police to protect the accused.
In the third case, a 40-year-old woman with a hearing disability was allegedly driven to suicide after she was sexually assaulted by another man in her village. When confronted, he allegedly said that he would marry her. Police, however, claim that the woman was married and that her father-in-law has been arrested in connection to her suicide.
"We have been doing whatever we can in all the case. In the case concerning the 26-year-old, I have personally visited the victim's home and conducted interrogation with her parents and brother but they are yet to reveal anything. She had an intellectual disability, so we are not sure whether she jumped into the well or if she was murdered. We are yet to find out who has raped her as well," admits SP Pandi Gangadhar. "But we have made headway in the other two cases," he adds.
The protesting groups have alleged that police action in the cases has been slow and unsatisfactory. The groups had issued a statement to the Chief Minister, DIG and the SP of Dharmapuri on October 15, questioning the status of these cases but received no replies.
"The police is clearly not doing enough in these cases. And when we question them, we are being intimidated," says S Namburajan, General Secretary of TARATDAC. "Before the protest, I was put under preventive arrest with two more of my colleagues. Police even tried to intimidate us on Tuesday night and stop us from holding the demonstration. Are they beyond questioning?" he asks.
Several buses which arrived with protestors, comprising people living with disabilities, were allegedly sent back by the police and Namburajan and other two of his other colleagues, who were arrested before the protest, were only released at 2 pm on the insistence of other agitators.